kettlebell ab exercises

20 Best Kettlebell Ab Exercises & 4 KB Core Workouts

September 18, 2021

While kettlebell training in general is great for your core and abs, your core muscles take on many roles and action so to really train it in its entirety, it’s important to incorporate some core specific exercises into your routine. 

On that note, we’ve put together for you 20 of the best abdominal and core kettlebell exercises along with 4 highly effective core workouts. 

All in all, this article is going to teach you everything you need to know about your core muscles, what are the different types of core exercises, and why training your core through all of its actions is so important. We are also going to teach you how to lose fat with kettlebells so you can slim down your waist and get those abs and obliques showing loud and proud.

kettlebell exercises for abs

Table of contents:

  • Core anatomy
  • Types of core exercises
  • Are kettlebell good for abs?
  • Core Strength VS Six Pack Abs & Losing Belly Fat
  • How to lose belly fat & slim waistline
  • 20 Best Kettlebell Ab/Core Strength Exercises
  • Kettlebell Core Strength Workouts
  • Kettlebell Fat Loss Workout

CORE ANATOMY:

Your core is so much more than just your abs, even if they are the star of the show due to their prominence in low body fat individuals. When discussing core strength, which includes the abs, you need to look at all of the muscles of your core - front, side and back.

Your core can be broken down into seven sets of muscles:

  • Rectus Abdominus (abs a.k.a. the six pack)
  • External Obliques
  • Internal Obliques
  • Transversus Abdominis
  • Multifidus
  • Quadratus Lumborum
  • Lumbar Erector Spinae 

With that, your side body and your low back is just as much a part of your core as the front of your abdomen. 

Note: The pelvis, hips and glutes, among other muscles, play a key role in core strength as well, but for the sake of simplicity, we will be focusing on just the muscles above. That said, these muscles will also be involved, and thus strengthened, during core training. 

kettlebell core exercises

Function of Your Core Muscles:

As a whole, your core is responsible for giving you strength and stability when twisting or bending (front, back, left and right). 

These actions can be categorized as such:

  • Trunk Flexion (bending forward or curl up)
  • Trunk Extension (standing up straight from a bent over position or bending backward)
  • Trunk Rotation (twisting left and right)
  • Lateral Trunk Flexion (bending to the side)
  • Compression of the abdomen (drawing your stomach/belly button into your spine)
  • Spinal Stability (keeping your spine stable during movement). Anti-Movements (more on this below) 

With a strong core, you will have injury resilience through spinal stability, better balance and coordination, and a greater ability to transfer force along the kinetic chain. A strong core is a strong body. It is arguably the most important area of the human body, yet one that is surprisingly often overlooked.

The additional benefit of a strong core, if you have low enough body fat, is your muscles will be best developed to produce that impressive shredded ab and oblique look.

types of core exercises

Types of Core Exercises:

To build optimal core strength, you must focus on all the aforementioned actions, as together, this will allow you to strengthen all of the muscles of your core to their greatest potential.

Let’s look at the actions of the core to see which muscles they target specifically, as well as what exercises are based on these actions. 

Trunk Flexion: 

Trunk flexion primarily targets your rectus abdominis (your abs). 

Exercises like crunches, sit ups, hanging leg raises are examples of trunk flexion.

Trunk Extension:

Trunk extension primarily targets your erector spinae as well as your multifidus (your low back, extensor muscles).

Back extension exercises are examples of trunk extension. 

Trunk Rotation:

Trunk rotation primarily targets your internal and external obliques (the sides of your core). 

Exercises like woodchoppers and Russian twists are examples of trunk rotation.

Lateral Trunk Flexion: 

Lateral trunk flexion primarily targets your obliques, rectus abdominis, and erector spinae

Exercises like side bends and side crunches are examples of lateral trunk flexion.

Compression of Abdomen:

Compression of the abdomen primarily targets your transverse abdominis

Hollow body holds and planks are examples of exercises that involve compression of the abdomen. Compression of the abdomen occurs in many exercises as it helps keep the body and spine firm and strong. 

Spinal Stability: 

Spinal stability involves resisting movement to keep the spine stable. While your multifidus is a primary muscle in spinal stability (being that it is the muscle that runs directly along your spine), your entire core will work to keep your spine and trunk stable. 

Because spinal stability involves different aspects of resisting movements, let’s break this down further... 

“ANTI” CORE EXERCISES:

Trunk flexion, extension, rotation and lateral flexion are actions that move your spine and core. ANTI exercises are the opposite, they resist these movements. 

Anti Core Movements:

  • Anti-Flexion Movements (i.e. reverse plank)
  • Anti-Extension Movements (i.e. front plank)
  • Anti-Rotation Movements (i.e. pallof press or single arm plank)
  • Anti-Lateral Flexion Movements (i.e. side plank or single arm farmer’s carry)

Just as being able to move with strength and power through flexion, extension, rotation and lateral flexion is important, resisting these movement is too. 

So, core training should emphasize these “anti” exercises just as much as they do the others.

Your core must be trained through all three planes of motion (sagittal, frontal, and transverse) to produce movement as well as to resist it. With the above actions, you will achieve that. 

In summary, the kettlebell core exercises in this article include trunk flexion, anti-flexion, extension, anti-extension, rotation, anti-rotation, lateral flexion, and anti-lateral flexion, and with these, you will naturally incorporate compression of the abdomen and spinal stability. This is truly complete core training. 

Related: Core Training - Rotational vs Anti-Rotational Exercises

kettlebell exercises for core

FAQs about ab exercises:

Since a lot of people ask us how to target the lower, upper and side abs/core/stomach, let us quickly go over this, using kettlebell exercises as an example where it makes sense.

How to target lower abs? 

The lower abs are activated best with exercises that lift your legs up for trunk and spine flexion. Exercises like the reverse crunch, kettlebell dead bug, leg raises/hanging leg raises are good for the lower abs.

How to target upper abs?

Your upper rectus abdominis is best activated with exercises that involve trunk flexion by moving your upper body towards your legs, as well as anti trunk flexion. So, exercises like crunches, kettlebell overhead sit ups, and front plank variations are good for your upper abs.

Note: Planks will also be good for your entire core (front, sides, back).

How to target your side abs?

We are only stating this question as it is often worded, but to be clear, your side abs are not really a thing. The side of your core would be your obliques. Exercises that target your sides are trunk lateral flexion, anti-lateral flexion, rotational and anti-rotational movements like side planks, farmer carries, woodchoppers, kettlebell twists, halos, single arm planks, kettlebell single arm renegade rows, pallof presses, and so on. 

These exercises are all included in the actions we discussed above - trunk flexion, extension, rotation, lateral flexion, and the anti movements of these.  

Related: Abs Explained: Can You Have A 10 Pack?

ARE KETTLEBELLS GOOD FOR ABS & CORE STRENGTH?

Kettlebells are fantastic for strengthening your abdominal muscles. In fact, they are good for your core on many levels. 

In terms of core strength, kettlebells are great because the exercises are very dynamic and often unilateral, which requires a lot of stabilization by the core muscles. This applies to exercises that are not even directly meant for the core. This means you will constantly be training your core with kettlebells. 

Then, of course, you have kettlebell ab and core specific exercises, which are extremely versatile, as you will see below. You can do kettlebell core exercises from ground, kneeling, and standing positions, as well as walking based exercises like single arm carries. With that, you can train your core through all planes of motion and fundamental movement patterns with optimum resistance and tension, thus giving you the most well-rounded core training possible. 

On top of all that, kettlebell training is great for fat loss. Without low body fat, you won’t be able to see your abs and obliques. Sure, your core can be strong, but it won’t look impressively shredded. With kettlebells, you will often be doing big compound and complex movements that burn a ton of calories. Moreover, some of the best kettlebell workouts are low rest, like HIIT workouts, that will have you burning calories long after your workout is over, keeping your metabolism strong and highly active. 

So, with a combination of general kettlebell workouts and exercises, kettlebell HIIT, and kettlebell ab & core specific exercises, you will have the look and strength in your core area that rivals that of pro athletes (and that you've always dreamed of). 

CORE STRENGTH vs BELLY FAT LOSS & SIX PACK

A lot of people ask us if kettlebells are good for the core and how to lose belly fat with kettlebells (and if kettlebell core exercises will help them lose belly fat and slim down their waistline). 

So, let’s break this down...

There is a big difference between core strength and six pack abs and a slim waistline. All the core exercises in the world won’t make you lose belly fat and give you an impressive six pack if you aren’t eating right.

Core and ab exercises with kettlebells (or bodyweight or any other equipment for that matter) will make your core stronger, more powerful, more stable, and resilient. But they won’t help you to lose belly fat. Well, not directly. 

To burn belly fat, you need to burn more calories. You can not spot reduce fat, meaning just lose fat in your belly. You will lose it all over (but if your belly has the most fat, it will appear like you are losing fat mainly in your stomach). 

So, while kettlebell ab specific exercises will help you burn belly fat in that they will help you burn calories just like any other exercise, they are not the most efficient and effective exercises for burning calories. The best way to burn more calories in effort to lose fat (and belly fat) is big compound kettlebell movements such as front rack squats, thrusters, snatches, and so on. 

Another great way to burn fat is to do keep your rest time short as you perform full body exercises. HIIT workouts are great as they are intense and involve a lot of muscles working at once, which burns calories fast. Plus, after a HIIT workout (which can range from 10-20+ minute), you will get an after burn affect, where you burn a higher amount of calories at rest. 

In addition to working out to burn fat, you must diet properly. In fact, diet is the most important aspect. You could lose belly fat by simply dieting right. And by dieting right, we mean eating at a calorie deficit (consuming less calories than you burn each day).

The reason working out is good is that you can eat a little more, which is always nice, and by working out, you can keep your metabolism higher (again, allowing you to eat more while still losing fat) and you to maintain muscle mass as you work toward your belly fat loss goals. 

As for core exercises, they will ensure the muscles of your midsection are as best developed as possible so you can really have that nice chiseled look when your body fat is low enough to show them. 

All in all, if you want a six pack and a slim waist, you must eat at a deficit (ideally healthy food and high protein) and train hard. The core exercises we are going to show you are meant to improve your performance in the gym, sports and daily life better. Working out productively requires a strong core. Plus, in the long run, you will be very happy you have a strong core because a strong core equals longevity of movement, strength and overall an injury-free life. 

Related: 5 Full Length Single Kettlebell Workouts

5 STAR SIX PACK ABS METHOD:

If you want a six pack and slim waist, here are the steps you must take now.

Step 1: Figure out your daily calorie expenditure (TDEE) - be sure to take into account your daily activity level, then eat 200-500 calories less than that each day.

Step 2: Workout 3-5 times a week doing big compound exercises with low rest time. Aim to do high intensity workouts (like HIIT) or at least moderately intense exercise with heavier weight. Full body kettlebell training is great. 

Step 3: Add in kettlebell core exercises to your routine or do 2-3 10-20 minute core and ab workouts per week. This will ensure that your muscles are as primed and developed as possible for when your body fat is low enough to show themselves. A well-developed mid-section will look at lot better when you have low body fat. It’ll really help give you that chiseled look.

That’s it!

kettlebell exercises for waistline

FAQs about kettlebell fat loss (belly fat loss & slim waistline):

Although we’ve already answered these questions for the most part, here are some common questions with quick answers. Sort of like a TLDR to the above sections...

Are kettlebell good for losing belly fat?

Kettlebells are great for losing belly fat due to the way most kettlebell training is structured. Kettlebell workouts typically involve full body or at least big compound exercises with low rest time. This is great for burning fat, and thus belly fat. Remember, you can't spot reduce fat.

How do I tone my stomach with kettlebells? 

Do high intensity kettlebell workouts, eat at a calorie deficit, eat plenty of protein to keep muscle loss to a minimum or not at all, and perform kettlebell core exercises each week (2-3 times for a total of 10-20 sets per week of various core exercises that hit all of the core actions we’ve went through earlier in this article).

How to slim waistline with kettlebells? 

If you want to slim your waistline, you need to lose fat. To lose fat, you need to eat at a calorie deficit and workout to keep your metabolism high. Apart from that, you can’t change your waist’s bone structure. But what you can do is build up certain muscles that will give you the appearance of a smaller waist. With broader shoulders, lats, and a chest, and bigger gluteal muscles, your waist will appear slimmer. For men, you will have that nice V-taper and women that ever-sexy hourglass shape. 

What kettlebell exercise is best for weight loss?

Big compound, multijoint kettlebell movements are best for weight loss. They will burn the most calories, boost testosterone, keep metabolism high, and help you to build muscle. Don’t forget, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest (better metabolism with optimal BMI). 

Kettlebell exercises like thrusters, squats, cleans, snatches and swings are best for weight loss as they will use up the most energy (calories) and are great for total body muscle and strength. Be sure to use heavy weight (relative to your strength and size) kettlebells where you can and a full range of motion for best results. If you can’t use heavy kettlebells, then maximize range of motion and keep rest time to a minimum.

Related: Lose Weight Fast With Kettlebells

Do kettlebell swings burn belly fat?

Kettlebell swings will not burn belly fat directly. Remember, you can’t spot reduce fat. However, kettlebells are a high intensity exercise that burn a lot of calories, so they are great for fat loss. One recent study showed that you can burn 400 calories in 20 minutes by doing just kettlebell swings. In other terms, around 20 calories per minute OR 100 calories per 100 kettlebell swings. Of course, this depends on how intense you are moving and how heavy the kettlebell, but this gives you the general idea.

Besides fat loss, kettlebell swings are fantastic for core strength and explosive hip power. 

Related: What Muscles Do Kettlebell Swings Work?

ADVANTAGES OF USING KETTLEBELLS FOR CORE WORKOUTS

  1. Accessible For All Fitness Levels: Kettlebells can be used to train your abs and core no matter what fitness level you are. For certain core exercises, the resistance will be purely based on the weight of the kettlebell, which means you can control how much resistance you are placing on your core. This is great as you can start light and progress, which means an exercise can be good for all levels. Then, you have exercises where kettlebells add resistance on top of your bodyweight’s resistance. While these types of exercises might not be best for beginners, as bodyweight alone would suffice, it allows more advanced athletes to continue progressing in core strength. As such, there is plenty of versatility in how you can use kettlebells to provide resistance to your core, making them great for beginner to advanced trainees.
  2. Core Strength Progression: Just to emphasize one of the points above, with kettlebells, you can progress in core strength as you can incrementally increase resistance.
  3. Variety: There are so many ways to use kettlebells for core exercises. While there are many great bodyweight core exercises, when you add a kettlebell into the mix, the variety of core and ab exercises becomes more than twofold. You can hit your core from all angles and planes of motion and through all actions that your core act on - flexion, extension, lateral flexion, rotation and all the anti-movements.
  4. Constant Core Work: With kettlebells, you will be hitting your core even when you are not specifically training your core. This is particularly noticeable when using heavy doubles or doing single kettlebell exercises. To give you an example, when you are performing a single arm press, you are working on your deltoids, obviously, but you are also training your core through anti-lateral flexion OR when you are doing bent over single arm rows, you are hitting your back and arm muscles while training your core through anti-rotation. Core stability plays a huge role in pretty much every major kettlebell movement.

What kettlebell exercises burn belly fat?

Who should do kettlebell ab exercises? 

Kettlebells are suitable for all fitness levels and the great thing is, they are available at pretty much every gym and if you workout at home, you can get some kettlebells for a good price online. 

Now, in terms of beginners, we recommend that you stick with bodyweight core exercises until you gain enough core strength for more advanced kettlebell core and ab exercises. There are plenty of ways to use your bodyweight to hit your core effectively. That said, some kettlebell exercises will allow you to train your core more effectively, even if you lack core strength. For example, walking with a kettlebell in one hand while keeping your torso upright right and squared forward may actually be more effective for a beginner than a side plank simply because the side plank may be too difficult. On the other hand, doing a bodyweight sit up will obviously be easier than a sit up with a kettlebell held at your chest or overhead.

So, certain kettlebell exercises will be great for beginners, while others too advanced. As such, we will label the difficulty of the exercise below.

TIPS BEFORE GETTING STARTED: 
  1. Be sure to warm up before doing ab and core exercises, especially if you are adding resistance with a kettlebell. Your lower back will be particularly susceptible to injury if you don’t warm up properly. This is why core exercises are usually done at the end of workouts. If you are doing a stand-alone kettlebell ab and core workouts then do some dynamic stretches first and 3-5 minutes of movement to get your body temp up.
  2. Stick with exercises that are suitable for your fitness level. For many kettlebell ab exercises, it will require existing core strength, so if your core is weak, then a bodyweight version of the exercise will be best. As mentioned before, there are some exercises that you can do with kettlebells that are easier as. For example, an 18lb kettlebell is lighter than your bodyweight, meaning that if the exercise has you fighting the resistance of your body, compared to an exercise that has you fighting the resistance of the kettlebell, the body one would be harder. Some exercises will add the weight of the kettlebell to the resistance of your body, which is obviously harder than just your bodyweight resistance alone. So, pay attention to the difficulty level.
  3. Be sure to perform the exercises with PROPER FORM and focus on the correct muscles being targeted. We will give you step-by-step how to’s and the primary muscles worked so you know what to do and focus on.
  4. When in doubt, start light. Don’t use too heavy of weight for core exercises, rather choose the appropriate weight for your fitness level and the exercise at hand. The priority is range of motion, form and overall good clean reps and sets with the right amount of volume (we will mention the best rep ranges or time under tension for each kettlebell ab exercise). 

    20 BEST KETTLEBELL AB & CORE EXERCISES 

    There are many kettlebell exercises for your abs and core, but rather than give you countless exercises or exercises that you probably have seen over and over again, we’ve narrowed our selection of core exercises down to 20. These are 20 of the best kettlebell ab and core exercises that you can do.

    We’ve organized the exercises by ground/plank, kneeling, standing and walking. So, we are going to work our way from the ground up. 

    Note: The fitness level doesn’t mean only that level should do the exercise, it just is a basic accessibility. So, a beginner exercise can still be highly effective for an intermediate or advanced trainee.

    Here is a compilation video of the exercises. Below this video is a breakdown of each exercise.

    20 KETTLEBELL CORE & AB SPECIFIC EXERCISES:

    1. Overhead Sit Up (0:05)
    2. Single Arm Overhead Sit Up (0:21)
    3. Dead Bug (0:35)
    4. Pullover (0:46)
    5. Single Arm Renegade Row (1:00)
    6. Renegade Hold (1:17)
    7. Plank Pass Over (1:26)
    8. Plank Pull Through (1:42)
    9. Half-Kneeling Woodchop (1:52)
    10. Half-Kneeling Windmill (2:00)
    11. Windmill (2:09)
    12. Turkish Get Up (2:24)
    13. Halo with Rotation (2:44)
    14. Around The World (3:03)
    15. Single Arm Side Load March (3:09)
    16. Single Arm Front Rack March (3:19)
    17. Single Arm Overhead March (3:34)
    18. Single Arm Side Load Carry (3:44)
    19. Single Arm Front Rack Carry (3:50)
    20. Single Arm Overhead Carry (3:58)

    1. Overhead Sit Up

    kettlebell sit up

    This is a kettlebell overhead sit up. It is a more advanced version of a regular sit up as you are adding resistance to your bodyweight with the kettlebell (plus, you get added shoulder strength and stability). With this kettlebell exercise, which is an ab specific exercise, you are going perform a sit up through a full range of motion, meaning you go from lying on the ground in a supine position to sitting straight up, all while holding the kettlebell straight up with your arms fully extended.

    Primary Muscle: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, Hip Flexors

    Level: Intermediate 

    How to:

    1. Lie down in a supine position, with your legs spread apart a little wider than shoulder width.
    2. With both hands on the horns of the kettlebell, press it straight up so your arms extended and perpendicular with the floor.
    3. Press your glutes and hamstrings into the floor and lift your chest up off to sit straight up. As you come up, try to keep your arms perpendicular with the floor so that when your back is straight up, your arms are up overhead.
    4. Slowly lower your torso back down to the ground.
    5. When your shoulder blades and head are touching the ground, that’s one full rep. Then, repeat.

    Best rep range: Aim for 8-12 reps, but even as few as 5-6 reps is effective.

    2. Single Arm Overhead Sit Up

    kettlebell ab exercise

    This is the same ab exercise as the last one, but you’ll be holding the kettlebell with just one arm. With that, the dynamics of the exercise change quite a bit. By using one arm, the kettlebell will be positioned to the working arm’s side, which will mean that as you sit up, you will need to resist rotation. As such, this is a great exercise for both your abs and obliques. It is both an anti-rotation and flexion exercise for strengthening your abs and working on midline spinal stability. Moreover, it will help you with shoulder alignment.

    Primary Muscles: Rectus Abdominis (upper and lower abs), Transverse Abdominis, Obliques, Erector Spinae, Multifidus

    Level: Intermediate to Advance

    How to:

    1. Lie down in a supine position, with your legs spread apart a little wider than shoulder width.
    2. Hold the kettlebell handle so the bell is resting on your forearm and press it straight up. The kettlebell should be aligned with your shoulder.
    3. Perform a sit up while trying your best to not allow for trunk rotation.
    4. Come up until your back is straight up.
    5. Slowly lower back down while trying your best to keep your chest squared forward.
    6. Come all the way down to the supine position with your shoulder blades and head to the floor, then repeat.
    7. Be sure to perform the same number of reps on the opposite side.

    Note: This exercise can also be done with rotation.  Similar to a Turkish get up. This will place more emphasis on your obliques while taking away from your spinal erectors.

    Best rep range: Aim for 8-12 reps, but even as few as 5-6 reps is effective. 

    3. Dead Bug

    kettlebell abdominal

    The kettlebell dead bug is a simple yet effective exercise for total core and lumbopelvic stability. It’s an exercise that hones in on the deep muscles of your core (transverse abdominis, pelvic floor, and erector spinae) while reinforcing contralateral limb movement and good posture. 

    Primary Muscles: Transverse Abdominis, Rectus Abdominis, Erector Spinae, Hip Flexors, Obliques

    Level: Beginner

    How to:

    1. Lie down in a supine position, with your legs spread apart a little wider than shoulder width.
    2. With both hands on the horns of the kettlebell, press it straight up so your arms extended and perpendicular with the floor.
    3. Bring your legs up so your thighs are perpendicular with the floor and your shins parallel with the floor. You are now in the starting position.
    4. While maintaining the kettlebell straight up over your chest, bring your right leg down, extending at the knee until your leg is straight and a couple inches from the floor. Your left leg will remain at 90 degrees.
    5. Then, bring your right leg back to the starting position and perform the same movement with your left leg while your right leg remains up at 90 degrees.
    6. This is one full rep. 

    Note: This exercise might seem easy, but if you move slowly and really focus on keeping your core engaged, with your abdomen compressed, and avoid raising your back off the ground, you’ll be shocked how well this one hits your core.

    Best rep range: Aim for at least 20 reps (10 each leg).

    4. Pullover

    kettlebell core workout

    While you’d typically think of this exercise for your chest and lats, it is an effective way to hit your upper abs as well. The goal is to keep your back to the floor and abdomen compressed as you move the kettlebell back and up slowly.

    Primary Muscle: Rectus Abdominis (upper abs), Intercostal Muscles (muscles between your ribs)

    Level: Beginner

    How to:

    1. Get into a supine position with your knees up and feet flat to the floor.
    2. Hold onto the horns of the kettlebell with both hands and press the kettlebell up over your chest. Put a bend in your elbow. This is the starting position.
    3. While keeping your torso and legs fixed, as well as your elbows fixed, bring the kettlebell down and reward behind your head.
    4. When the kettlebell just about touches the floor behind you, raise it back up and over your chest.

    Note: The movement will occur only at your arms, everything else is stable. Be sure to focus on core engagement and compression as you lower and raise the kettlebell. Don’t forget to breathe too! 

    Best rep range: Aim for around 10-15 reps, with a very slow tempo. These are not speedy reps. 

    5. Single Arm Renegade Row

    kettlebell plank exercises

    Now we are into the plank position. Like any front plank, it is an anti-extension exercise, but as this one involves planking with one arm, it is also anti-rotation. It is an advanced exercise considering you are planking with one arm and rowing with the other, so you have to not just resist rotation from your bodyweight, but also the kettlebell. On top of the core work, you also get some bicep and back/lat work in. 

    Primary Muscles: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, Obliques, Erector Spinae, Glutes, Shoulders, Lats, Pecs

    A lot of muscles work on this one! A plank is always a total body (isometric) exercise as is, and this one takes it up a notch.

    Level: Intermediate to Advance

    How to:

    1. Get into a plank position. Don’t arch your back, try your best to keep your neck and spine to legs straight.
    2. With a kettlebell line up directly underneath your right shoulder, lift your right hand off the floor and grab the kettlebell by the top of the handle using a neutral grip.
    3. While doing your best to keep your hips and torso squared forward, row the kettlebell by pulling your elbows up past your back.
    4. Hold for a moment or two with your elbow in flexion, then slowly lower it back to a dead stop on the floor (keep your hand on the kettlebell).
    5. Repeat for a number of reps on your right side, then do the same amount of reps on your left side (after a rest if needed). 

    Best rep range: The row is a slow movement and you will hold the top position for a second or two each rep, so aim for 5-10 reps each side.

    6. Renegade Hold 

    kettlebell plank

    The renegade hold is just like the single arm renegade row but the focus is on holding the row at the top for as long as you can. Basically it’s an isometric plank row for core strength and stability. Like the single arm renegade row, you will be working your core through anti-extension and anti-rotation. 

    Primary Muscles: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, Obliques, Erector Spinae, Glutes, Shoulders, Lats, Pecs

    Level: Intermediate to Advance

    How to:

    1. Get into a plank position. Don’t arch your back, try your best to keep your neck and spine to legs straight.
    2. With a kettlebell line up directly underneath your right shoulder, lift your right hand off the floor and grab the kettlebell by the top of the handle using a neutral grip.
    3. Do your best to keep your hips and torso squared forward, row the kettlebell by pulling your elbows up past your back.
    4. Hold the row position for as long as you can, just like any other plank.

    Best rep range: Aim for 20-30 seconds per set. This may mean you perform the row and hold 3-4 times. The goal is to hold it up for as long as you can while keeping your hips and torso squared forward, but it’s ok to set the kettlebell down to give yourself a quick break and then row it back up and hold again. This will allow you to get your sets into the 20-30+ second range. Plus, your core will still be activated even when you set the kettlebell down. 

    7. Plank Pass Over

    kettlebell exercises for lower stomach

    The plank pass over is certainly harder than a regular front plank, but easier than the renegade hold, although it does work the core in a similar way. Basically, the pass over movement forces you into a single arm plank, which adds an anti-rotation element into the planks standard anti-extension and core compression action. What’s more, as you are alternating between your right and left arm each time you move the kettlebell, you can hit both sides in one set, rather than needing to do a set for each side.

    Primary Muscles: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, Obliques, Erector Spinae/Multifidus, Glutes, Shoulders, Pecs 

    Level: Beginner to Intermediate 

    How to:

    1. Get into a plank position. Don’t arch your back, try your best to keep your neck and spine to legs straight.
    2. Grab the kettlebell with your right hand, lift it up, and move it over to your left side. Place your right hand down, then pick up the kettlebell with your left hand and move it to your right side.
    3. Continue alternating from your right to your left while doing your best to keep your back straight, glutes and core tight, and hips and chest squared forward.

    Best rep range: Aim for around 20 reps (10 pass overs with each arm). This is a slow movement, so take your time with each pass over. Ultimately, the goal is to hold the plank position for 20+ seconds each set. 

    8. Plank Pull Through 

    ab workout with kettlebell

    The plank pull through is very similar to the pass over but its more dynamic and you’ll be using one arm at a time for each set, which means the anti-rotation aspect is continuous, as you will remain on one arm for the duration of each set.

    Primary Muscles: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, Obliques, Erector Spinae/Multifidus, Glutes, Shoulders, Pecs

    Level: Beginner to Intermediate

    How to:

    1. Get into a plank position. Don’t arch your back, try your best to keep your neck and spine to legs straight.
    2. Grab the kettlebell with your right hand, then drag it to your left side and immediately back to your right side.
    3. Continue dragging the kettlebell from your right to your left side and back for the duration of the set while keeping your hips and chest squared toward the ground. Try not to let your butt come up, keep your back to legs as straight as possible.
    4. Repeat on the opposite side.

    Best rep range: Perform as many reps as it takes to be at around 20+ seconds. The action is not about how many times you move the kettlebell, the movement is about holding the position for anti-flexion, ab compression and anti-rotation purposes, the dragging of the kettlebell simply facilitates that demand on your core. 

    9. Half-Kneeling Woodchop

    kettlebell rotational core exercise

    Here we have an intense rotational kettlebell core exercises made more foundational through the half-kneeling position. The wood chopper movement itself trains your core for rotational power and the half-kneeling position forces you to keep your hips stable and strong as you do so. With that, you will be hitting your core and glutes (your gluteal muscles work to keep your hips stable), as well as your shoulders. All in all, it’s a great movement for rotational power and core stability, hip stability and overall balance and coordination. 

    Primary Muscles: Obliques, Transverse Abdominis, Glutes

    Level: Intermediate to Advance 

    How to:

    1. Get into a half-kneeling position, with your left leg forward at 90 degrees and your right leg back at 90 degrees with your knee to the ground.
    2. Hold the kettlebell by its horns and with your arms extended down to your right side near the outside of your thigh.
    3. Swing the kettlebell up to your contralateral side, while rotating at your torso but keeping your hips squared forward.
    4. When the kettlebell reaches the top, stop the movement by contracting your core, then let the kettlebell swing back down to the starting position, pause and repeat. 

    Note: Use your core to both facilitate the movement and stop the movement.

    Best rep range: 8-15 reps is typically best for woodchoppers.

    10. Half-Kneeling Windmill 

    kettlebell oblique exercises

    The windmill is a fantastic frontal plane exercise for improving strength and stability in your obliques (side of your torso), glutes and shoulders. It also helps you to build hip, hamstring and thoracic mobility and flexibility.

    The half-kneeling position simply lowers the range of motion and will help you to learn this movement easier. It’s a good starting point for the standard standing kettlebell windmill. It is also good for placing more of the emphasis on your core. 

    Primary Muscles: Obliques, Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus

    Level: Intermediate 

    How to:

    1. Get into a half-kneeling position but with your back leg slightly angled inward for a more stable base of support.
    2. Put your kettlebell into the rack position and then press it overhead with your arm fully extended.
    3. While keeping your eyes on the bell, hinge at your hip (like a deadlift) and slowly lean your torso down to the side and touch the floor at a point directly in line with your shoulder. You may go deeper into the windmill if you have the mobility to do so, bringing your torso even further toward the ground.
    4. Drive up through the legs by squeezing the glutes until you are back in the tall half-kneeling position with your torso upright.
    5. Be sure to keep your core tight at all time so that your spine remains straight (no lateral flexion, the movement of leaning to the side is purely at the hips).
    6. Repeat on the opposite side.

    Best rep range: The windmill is a very slow and controlled movement, so you can do anywhere from 3-8 reps each side. Most people actually stick to the 3-5 rep range. Start light and over time you can work up in weight.

    11. Standing Windmill

    oblique exercise with kettlebell

    When you are comfortable with the half-kneeling kettlebell windmill, you can progress to the standing windmill. You can practice it unloaded first just to be sure your form is good before using a kettlebell. With the standing windmill, you will have a greater range of motion, which will cause you to feel a deeper stretch in your legs and hips. Beyond that, the same core, hip, and shoulder strength and stability benefits apply. 

    Primary Muscles: Obliques, Rectus Abdominis Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus, Hamstrings

    Level: Intermediate to Advance 

    How to:

    1. Standing with your feet about 1.5x shoulder width apart, turn your left foot outward.
    2. Press the kettlebell overhead with your right arm letting the bell rest on the outside of your forearm. Your left arm will be hanging down at your side.
    3. Brace your core and push your hips back and toward your ride side as you lean toward your left side slowly reading down to touch your left hand to the floor. Try your best to keep your right leg as straight as possible, but your left leg can have a slight bend in the knee. As you are coming down, be sure to keep your head turned towards the kettlebell with your eyes set on the bell.
    4. Pause at the bottom then drive force through your heels to come back up to the starting position. Be sure to keep your core engaged throughout the exercise and your spine long.
    5. Repeat for a set number of reps, then switch sides.

    Note: The movement is at the hips, so your spine should be long, meaning you are avoiding flexion of the spine. When you touch the ground, your left arm should be in line with your right arm as it is held up toward the sky.

    Best rep range: Perform sets of around 3-5 reps on each side. 

    12. Turkish Get Up 

    best kettlebell exercises for abs

    The Turkish Get Up is more than just a core exercise, it is a full body, multiplanar exercise meant to bulletproof your body. That said, it definitely places emphasis on core strength, stability, and mobility (which together improves durability), as well as shoulder strength and stability.

    This is one of the most important kettlebell exercises there is. Every kettlebell trainee should learn and implement the Turkish Get Up into their routine eventually. It will be a primary exercise for your training for the long run.

    When breaking down the exercise, you can see why it’s so good for your core, and you will notice how it combines various core exercises seen in this article, such as the single arm sit up and the windmill, into one complex movement. Therefore, working on other exercises like the single arm kettlebell sit up, half-kneeling windmill, and single arm overhead farmer’s carry will improve your ability in the Turkish Get Up. 

    Primary Muscles: Total Core Exercise

    Level: Intermediate to Advanced

    How to: 

    The Turkish Get Up is a complex movement which would take an entire article itself to discuss proper form, which is exactly what we’ve done here: Learn all about the Turkish Get Up with Step-By-Step instruction on how to do it. 

    Note: Be sure to watch the video and pay strict attention to the form. Go light to start so you can get the form down pat. 

    Best rep range: Turkish Get Ups can be effective anywhere from 1-10 reps, but the average is around 5 reps. To give you an example, you could do 5 sets x 1 rep each side with a heavy kettlebell, or 2-4 sets x 5 reps each side with a moderately heavy kettlebell, or 1 set x 10 reps each side with a moderately light kettlebell.

    13. Halo with Rotation 

    best kettlebell exercises for core

    The standard kettlebell halo involves moving the kettlebell around your head while keeping your torso fixed and squared forward. It is great for shoulder health and core compression, anti-extension, and anti-rotation. The halo with rotation is all that plus more since it adds rotation with each rep. So, you perform a normal halo, but as the kettlebell reaches your front and center at your upper chest, you bring it down to your side as you rotate your torso in the same direction, after which you reverse the movement the opposite way through the same path of motion. With that, you also get to work on rotational strength and stability. 

    Primary Muscles: Obliques, Rectus Abdominis (upper abs), Erector Spinae 

    Fitness Level: Beginner to Intermediate

    Note: If you don’t know how to do the halo, learn it first before adding rotation.

    How to:

    1. Get into a tall-kneeling position (you can also do this exercise standing) and hold the kettlebell bell up with your hands on the horns of the handle.
    2. With the kettlebell held up at your chest, bring it up and around your head in a controlled manner. As it reaches the front and center, start to rotate your torso and bring the kettlebell down to your side, feeling the tension in your obliques.
    3. Pause at the bottom, then reverse the motion bringing it back up in the same direction then up and around your head and down to the other side. So, you’ll be rotating to your left then right, alternating sides/direction each rep.

    Note: This is not an explosive rotational exercise, it is about powerful, stable, fully controlled rotation. 

    Best rep range: Perform around 10-20 reps (5-10 each way).

    14. Around The World

    anti-rotation kettlebell core exercises

    Although the kettlebell will be rotating around your body, this is not a rotational exercise, it is an anti-rotational exercise (and anti-lateral flexion and extension). So, as you swing the kettlebell around your body, you will resist the twist, keeping your torso squared forward and upright at all times. 

    Primary Muscle: Rectus Abdominis, Erector Spinae, Internal Obliques 

    Level: Beginner

    How to:

    1. Stand tall with your feet shoulder width apart and hip in a neutral position.
    2. With your arms extended down in front of you, bring the kettlebell into one hand and swing it around your back.
    3. As the kettlebell reaches the other side behind your back, switch hands and bring it around your body full circle.
    4. With each rep, you will pass it from your right to left hand to complete one revolution around your body. The pass should occur at the centerline of your front and back side.
    5. Reverse directions after a set number of reps.

    Best rep range: 20 reps in both direction. The is a dynamic exercise, so you will use speed, but in a controlled manner as to keep your body upright and squared forward at all times. 

    15. Single Arm Side Load March

    kettlebell core strength

    The single arm side load march is a basic yet effective anti-lateral flexion exercise. It’s great as you can progress simply by increasing the weight of the kettlebell.

    The marching will also help you build hip stability. Altogether, it’s a fantastic exercise for balance and coordination. 

    Primary Muscle: Obliques, Erector Spinae/Multifidus, Abs, Glutes 

    Level: Intermediate

    How to:

    1. Stand tall with a kettlebell held in your right hand down at your side. Your feet can be together or at hip distance.
    2. Raise your right knee up to about hip level, pause, then lower it back down.
    3. Then, raise your left knee up to hip level, pause, and lower it back down.
    4. Continue alternating raising your legs up.
    5. Switch the side the kettlebell is on the next set. 

    Note: For balance, you can bring your free arm out to your side. If you lose balance, don’t worry about it, just reposition yourself and continue. 

    Best rep range: 10-20 marches per side. 

    16. Single Arm Front Rack March

    kettlebell core stability

    This is the same exercise but the position of the load changes. With the kettlebell in the front rack position, you are working anti-lateral flexion as well as anti-flexion. It’s also more difficult simply because you have to keep the kettlebell held up in this position. 

    As with the other march exercise, it is great for core strength, hip stability, balance, and coordination.

    Primary Muscle: Obliques, Erector Spinae/Multifidus, Rectus Abdominis, Glutes

    Level: Beginner to Intermediate

    How to:

    1. Stand tall with a kettlebell held in the front rack position. Your feet can be together or at hip distance.
    2. Raise your right knee up to about hip level, pause, then lower it back down.
    3. Then, raise your left knee up to hip level, pause, and lower it back down.
    4. Continue alternating raising your legs up.
    5. Switch the side the kettlebell is on the next set. 

    Note: For balance, you can bring your free arm out to your side. If you lose balance, don’t worry about it, just reposition and continue.

    Best rep range: 10-20 marches per side. 

    17. Single Arm Overhead March 

    kettlebell abs

    This is the next progression of the kettlebell march. With this one, you will be holding the kettlebell overhead. This load position requires anti-lateral flexion, and the march places emphasis on hip stability, and thus balance and coordination. Essentially, it is just a more advanced version of the exercises above, with additional focus on shoulder strength and stability. 

    Primary Muscle: Obliques, Erector Spinae/Multifidus, Rectus Abdominis, Deltoids, Glutes 

    Level: Intermediate to Advance 

    How to:

    1. Stand tall with a kettlebell held in the front rack position. Your feet can be together or at hip distance.
    2. Press the kettlebell up overhead. It will remain in this position for the duration of the set.
    3. Raise your right knee up to about hip level, pause, then lower it back down.
    4. Then, raise your left knee up to hip level, pause, and lower it back down.
    5. Continue alternating raising your legs up.
    6. Switch the side the kettlebell is on the next set. 

    Note: For balance, you can bring your free arm out to your side. If you lose balance, don’t worry about it, just reposition and continue. 

    Best rep range: 10-20 marches per side. 

    18. Single Arm Side Load Carry 

    kb ab exercises

    This is a very similar exercise as a march, but rather than bringing your knees up high, you are simply walking with the kettlebell held in place. 

    The carry, aka farmer’s carry, is a great exercise for building total body strength. This variation places the load on just one side, thus doubling down on the demand for core strength and stability through anti-lateral flexion. 

    As with the march, the difficulty of this exercise can simply be increased by increasing the weight of the kettlebell you are using. 

    Primary Muscle: Total Core (with emphasis on obliques) 

    Level: Beginner

    How to:

    1. Hold the kettlebell in your left hand down directly at your side. Arm fully extended.
    2. Simply walk forward maintaining your torso upright, squared forward as you do so. 

    Best rep range: Aim for 20-60 yards (meters) per side. If you don’t have space, simply walk back and forth.

    19. Single Arm Front Rack Carry

    kb core exercises

    Besides increase the weight load, you can make the farmer’s carry harder by changing the load position. This one places the load in the front rack position, which will increase the demand on core strength and stability. 

    Primary Muscle: Total Core (with emphasis on obliques)

    Level: Intermediate

    How to:

    1. Bring the kettlebell into the front rack position.
    2. Walk forward maintaining your torso upright, squared forward as you do so. 

    Best rep range: Aim for 20-50 yards (meters) per side. If you don’t have space, simply walk back and forth.

    20. Single Arm Overhead Carry 

    standing kettlebell ab exercises

    The final progression of the single arm farmer’s carry is the overhead position. This is the most difficult version. It is not only harder on your core, but it also brings the demand for shoulder strength and stability into play.

    Primary Muscle: Total Core (with emphasis on obliques)

    Level: Intermediate 

    How to:

    1. Bring the kettlebell into the front rack position. Then press it up overhead.
    2. Walk forward keeping your torso upright and squared forward as you do so and the kettlebell up overhead the entire time. 

    Best rep range: Aim for 15-40 yards (meters) per side. If you don’t have space, simply walk back and forth.

    More Resources on Strengthening the Core:

    Other Kettlebell Core Exercises 

    There are plenty of other ab and core exercises that you can do with kettlebells. Essentially every bodyweight or cable pulley ab exercises can be modified in some way to be done with kettlebells. 

    Even more so, kettlebell training is special in that basically every kettlebell exercise works your core to some degree. 

    This is true for both doubles and single kettlebell exercises. With doubles, if you are using a heavy kettlebell, your core will need a lot of strength to keep your torso stable, whether that’s through anti-flexion, anti-extension, or anti-lateral flexion.

    As for single, one arm kettlebell exercises, they essentially double as core exercises. 

    For example...

    If you using a single kettlebell from a standing or tall-kneeling position, you are performing anti-lateral flexion...

    standing kettlebell core exercises

    If you use a single kettlebell from any bent over position with your torso at or near parallel with the ground, you are performing anti-rotation...

    kettlebells for abs

    On top of that, there are many multiplanar kettlebell exercises that involve rotation... 

    Such as, single arm rotational kettlebell swings...

    kettlebell ab workout

    ...and rotational overhead presses. 

    kettlebell upper ab exercises

    All in all, by nature of the implement’s design itself and the way kettlebells are used, there are so many good core exercises with kettlebells. If you use kettlebells for long enough, you are bound to have a powerful core.

    More Kettlebell Training Resources:

    4 KETTLEBELL CORE WORKOUTS 

    Here are 3 core workouts for beginners, intermediate and advanced trainees.

    Choose an appropriate kettlebell weight based on your strength. When it doubt, start light. 

    KETTLEBELL AB WORKOUT FOR BEGINNERS:

    1. Plank Pass Over: 2 sets x 20 reps (10 each side)
    2. Dead Bug: 2 sets x 20 reps (10 each leg)
    3. Around the World: 2 sets x 20 reps each way
    4. Single Arm Side Load March: 1 sets x 20 reps (10 each leg)
    5. Single Arm Side Load Carry: 1 set x 30 yards

    KETTLEBELL AB WORKOUT INTERMEDIATE:

    Circuit 1 x 3 Rounds:

    1. Overhead Sit Up x 8 reps
    2. Plank Pull Through x 8 reps each side
    3. Single Arm Front Rack March x 8 reps each side

    1 minute rest between rounds and next circuit. 

    Circuit 2 x 3 Rounds:

    1. Dead Bug x 10 reps
    2. Half-Kneeling Windmill x 5 reps each side
    3. Single Arm Front Rack Carry x 30 yards (both sides) 

    1 minute rest between rounds. 

    KETTLEBELL AB WORKOUT ADVANCED: 

    1. Turkish Get Up: 5 set x 1 rep each side (heavy load)
    2. Single Arm Overhead Carry: 2 sets x 50 yards (heavy load)
    3. Plank Pull Through: 2 sets x 30-60 seconds (set 1 left side, set 2 right side)
    4. Overhead Sit Up: 3 sets x 10 reps
    5. Halo with Rotation: 1 set x 20 reps

    KETTLEBELL AB TABATA WORKOUT: 

    This is a tabata workout for your abs. Tabata is simply 20 seconds work followed by 10 seconds rest and you continue like that for the duration of the workout.

    This workout is geared towards intermediate to advanced trainees.

    4 Rounds
    20 seconds on
    10 seconds off

    Total workout time: 8 minutes 

    Exercises:

    1. Overhead Sit Up
    2. Around the World
    3. Renegade Hold
    4. Dead Bug

    Change sides/direction each round. So, for round one, renegade hold on the left, then round 2 renegade hold on right, and for round 1 around the world to your left and round 2 to your right.

    No rest between rounds. Just continue with the 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off until all 4 rounds are completed. 

    kettlebell exercises for belly fat

    KETTLEBELL WORKOUTS FOR FAT LOSS

    Kettlebell fat loss workouts are not ab focused, but they will involve plenty of core work, especially if you do a single kettlebell exercises.

    Our favorite fat loss workout with kettlebells is full body HIIT using a single kettlebell. 

    HIIT = High Intensity Interval Training. 

    With HIIT, you will burn calories in a very efficient manner. A 20 minute kettlebell HIIT workout is the equivalent of 45-60 minutes of long duration low intensity cardio.

    On top of burning calories while working out, you will burn calories long after the workout is over due to the after burn affect (EPOC). This is really what makes HIIT so effective. Essentially it is a metabolism booster.

    On that note, below is a single kettlebell HIIT workout that you can follow along to. It is a fantastic workout for building muscle, losing fat, and building core and total body strength.

    23 Minute Kettlebell HIIT Workout:

    SINGLE KETTLEBELL FULL BODY HIIT WORKOUT:

    - 5 Exercises (each side)
    - 30 seconds work
    - 15 seconds rest
    - 3 Rounds

    EXERCISES:

    - Snatches (Right)
    - Snatches (Left)
    - One Hand Swings (Right)
    - One Hand Swings (Left)
    - Cleans (Right)
    - Cleans (Left)
    - Racked Squats (Right)
    - Racked Squats (Left)
    - Push Presses (Right)
    - Push Presses (Left)

    So, when you complete all of the above exercises, that’s 1 round. Then you will do another two rounds. Again, 30 seconds on, 15 seconds off until all three rounds are completed. 

    Total Workout Time: ~23 minutes

    Related: HIIT with Kettlebells

    HOW OFTEN SHOULD I TRAIN CORE WITH KETTLEBELLS 

    For those who train with kettlebell in their regular strength training routines, because kettlebells are so effective at hitting your core during compound movements, you will not need to do too much additional core focused work. This is especially true if you perform heavy single kettlebell exercises. 

    That said, doing a quick core workout at the end of your regular strength workouts once or twice a week is great if you really want to take your core performance to the next level. In this case, it would make sense to focus on core exercises that involve actions you are missing in your normal routine, such as rotational exercises.

    If you don’t train with kettlebells much, but you want to use them for core workouts, then you can do 2-3 core workouts per week. Even 5-10 minutes per workout is enough.

    Ultimately, we recommend doing around 15-40 minutes of core training per week (spread out through the week) OR 10-20 of core specific exercises sets in total each week (be sure to perform different core exercises that train you through all the various core actions we mentioned earlier in the article).

    If you have any questions about kettlebell training, please feel free to reach out. 

    MORE RESOURCES: 

    Buy Kettlebell from SET FOR SET

    kettlebells for core



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